Home News Curtis Mayfield and ‘we people who find themselves darker than blue’

Curtis Mayfield and ‘we people who find themselves darker than blue’


Josiah Howard, writing for the Library of Congress National Recording Registry, when Mayfield’s “Super Fly” was included, wrote:

Curtis Lee Mayfield was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 3, 1942. He grew up within the arduous knocks CabriniInexperienced housing initiativesthe incendiary backdrop for the blaxploitation favourite Cooley Excessive and the AfricanAmerican TV collection “Good Occasions.” One among 5 youngsters, his mom inspired his innate musicality. At 14, Mayfield joined a singing group that will later develop into the Impressions. He sang, performed devicesincluding the piano, guitar and bass, and wrote catchy songs. The ImpressionsRock & Roll Corridor of Fame inductees (as is Curtis Mayfield as a solo artist)went by means of a number of casting modifications over time. The one fixed was Mayfield’s masterful songs. “Gypsy Girl” (1962), “It’s All Proper” (1963), “Preserve on Pushing” (1964),and “Folks Get Prepared” (1965)the latter two of which have been embraced by Dr. Martin Luther KingJr. and utilized in the course of the many years’ many freedom rides, elevated Mayfield from soul group member to poet/artist/activist.

The cumulative impact was that his distinctive skills made him appear bigger than the group that brought him fame. Nineteenseventy was the 12 months Curtis Mayfield stated goodbye to the Impressions. That years’ “Curtis” and the next years’ “Roots,”launched on Curtomhis very personal report labelappealed to Mayfield’s already established black viewers however took his music and his message a step additional. The new track titles stated all of it: “The Different Aspect of City,” “We the Folks Who Are Darker Than Blue,” “Transfer on Up,” “Miss Black America,” “Get Down,” “Stunning Brother of Mine,” and “Carry on Preserving On,” made clear that Mayfield was aware of America’s ongoing race and sophistication divideand he wasn’t afraid to debate it.

Mayfield was profiled by the VH1 Legends collection in 1996.

Ethnomusicologist Stephanie Shonekan, a professor of music and affiliate dean on the College of Missouri, wrote “Epilogue: ‘We People Who Are Darker than Blue’: Black Studies and the Mizzou Movement” for The Journal of Negro Schooling:

One among my favourite track titles is Curtis Mayfield’s “We Folks Who Are Darker than Blue” (1970). It connotes the deep and distinctive bodily magnificence and painful battle of Black individuals all all over the world. The track itself is a journey from Africa to the Americas, fusing the hypnotic djembe drum beats of a West African previous with the funky improvisational jazzy horns and keyboards of African American R&B. Mayfield contains spoken phrase and sung lyrics, tales and didactic classes, various the tempo and the dynamism, all leading to an pressing name to Black people to stay steadfast within the battle towards systemic oppression and racism. Though the twenty-first century #BlackLivesMatter technology has gravitated towards hip hop to seek out an apt soundtrack for his or her fashionable motion, this Curtis Mayfield track might function the theme track for the motion’s continuum.

On this clip from the 1973 documentary movie Save the Children, Curtis performs each “We Folks Who Are Darker Than Blue” and “Give Me Your Love.”

As a pupil at Howard College in 1968 and a participant within the student takeover of the administration building, I can testify to this factoid.


Right here’s “Carry on Pushing.” 

Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield, is his 2016 biography, co-written by his son Todd Mayfield and Travis Atria.

Bookcover. Biography of Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield was one of many seminal vocalists and most proficient guitarists of his period, and his music performed a significant position within the civil rights motion: “Folks Get Prepared” was the black anthem of the time. In Touring Soul, Todd Mayfield tells his famously personal father’s story in riveting element. Born into dire poverty, raised within the slums of Chicago, Curtis turned a musical prodigy, not solely singing like a dream however rising into an excellent songwriter. Within the Nineteen Sixties he opened his personal label and manufacturing firm and labored with many different high artists, together with the Staple Singers. Curtis’s life was famously minimize brief by an accident that left him paralyzed, however in his declining well being he obtained the long-awaited recognition of the music business.

The story of the life-changing accident that left Mayfield paralyzed is detailed within the e book. Mayfield was doing a live performance at Wingate Area in Brooklyn, New York, on August 13, 1990, for state Sen. Marty Markowitz. The climate forecast was dangerous that day, however the present went on. Rolling Stone posted this excerpt from the biography, detailing what occurred:

It occurred in a matter of seconds, beginning with the wind that had thrown the primary two rows from their seats and razed the audio system. The gust additionally toppled the cymbals on the drum riser. Drummer Lee Goodness leaned again and caught them together with his left arm, maintaining the beat together with his proper. As Markowitz turned with the microphone, one other gust heaved the entrance lighting truss off the bottom and despatched it tumbling, knocking the again truss off the stage because it fell. Markowitz collapsed in worry, mendacity on his abdomen. The entrance truss plunged down, down, down, like a freight practice dropped from the sky. Because it plummeted, stage lights fell from it like raindrops.

A kind of falling raindrop lights cracked Curtis on the again of the neck and crumpled him to the bottom. Then the falling truss pulverized the tom drums with a mighty crash. If Lee hadn’t leaned again to catch the cymbals, it might have severed his arms, perhaps worse. His bass drum stopped the truss earlier than it might squash my father like a bug.

Dad blacked out, got here to, and found neither his fingers nor arms have been the place he thought they have been. He lay splattered on the stage, helpless as an toddler. Then it rained. Large drops. Torrents poured from the sky; thunder exploded like shrapnel. Goodness rushed over to his bandleader. “Are you all proper?” he yelled into the rain. “I feel so, however I can’t transfer,” my father groaned, sodden within the squall, powerless to take cowl. He stored his eyes open, afraid that if he closed them he’d die. Somebody coated him with a plastic sheet, and everybody waited with out breath till an ambulance arrived.

Medical doctors at Kings County Hospital would give Mayfield the life-changing information: as a result of he was paralyzed from the neck down he would by no means stroll or play a guitar once more.

In 1995, Mayfield was interviewed for the BBC Omnibus collection’ documentary retrospective of his life—entitled “Darker Than Blue.

In 1996, three years earlier than his demise in 1999, Mayfield produced his final album, New World Order.

The album included a remake of “We Folks Who Are Darker Than Blue.”

Although Brother Mayfield has handed, his work, his life and his impression lives on. Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater firm mounted a manufacturing of It’s All-Right To Have a Good Time: The Story of Curtis Mayfield again in 2013, and I hope they are going to revive the present once more within the post-COVID-19 future. 

Be a part of me in feedback for extra Mayfield, his music and his impression.